People are being urged to use online services before turning to the telephone for help with their benefit claim

With a rise in new claims, and with demand for support over the phone increasing, the Department for Work and Pensions is taking unprecedented action to make sure people can get the support they need, including moving 10,000 existing staff to focus on processing new claims.

In line with recent Government guidance and to best serve those who need support, the Work and Pensions Secretary has taken the decision to limit access to jobcentres from tomorrow, with members of the public not admitted into jobcentres unless they are directed to do so with a booked appointment. 

Only the most vulnerable claimants who cannot access DWP services by other channels will be invited to attend, with the public urged to use online services. 

In addition, the Secretary of State has also today announced that reviews and reassessments for disability benefits are being suspended for the next three months. The suspension will be kept under regular review and extended if necessary.

These stronger measures come in response to the changing situation and mean more staff are being deployed to process new claims and make payments, with remote support a top priority for the department.

Around 10,000 existing staff will be moved to process new claims, with 1000 already in place. In addition, the Department is expecting to recruiting 1500 extra people to aid the effort.

The changes are part of the Government’s effort to stop the spread of the virus, supporting people to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. The measures follow Government guidance last week that people were not expected to attend face to face jobcentre appointments, and the suspension of face-to-face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits for the next 3 months.

In the meantime, all services can be accessed online and over phone with the Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey is urging people to use online services first, helping keep phone lines free for those who really need them.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Therese Coffey said:

“Our jobcentres are fully committed to supporting people facing challenges during these extraordinary times. To help people most effectively and efficiently, we need people to claim online. If you cannot get online, phone us for help and we will only see people face to face in our jobcentres if invited.”

Those looking to put in a claim for Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance should apply online.

Reviews and reassessments for disability benefits are being suspended for the next three months.

This temporary measure, effective from tomorrow, is being taken to reassure vulnerable people about the continuity of their benefits during the coronavirus outbreak and to ensure the Department’s resources are focused on enabling access to financial support for new claimants. This follows on from a previous announcement to suspend all face-to-face assessments in order to safeguard potentially vulnerable claimants.

Work and Pensions Secretary of State Thérèse Coffey said:

“As this country ramps up its efforts to support people through coronavirus, we will do whatever it takes to protect claimants and our staff. 

“We are automatically extending all awards and reassessments for health and disability benefits to provide that reassurance to those in receipt of them.” 

What this means for claimants:

  • There will be no new reviews or reassessments across all benefits for three months – this includes Universal Credit (UC), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.
  • As previously announced, face-to-face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits have been suspended for the next 3 months including for any new claims.
  • For PIP, if an assessment has already taken place this will continue to be processed. If an assessment has been scheduled, claimants will be contacted by the assessment provider to discuss how this will be taken forward.
  • For ESA and UC, claimants whose cases have been referred to the provider will be contacted to take this forward.

Additional information for claimants:

  • The suspension will be kept under regular review and extended if necessary.
  • If people experience a change in their needs they are still encouraged to contact the Department to ensure they are receiving the correct level of support.
  • Where awards are due to expire, we will be extending end-dates so that claimants continue to receive financial support at their current rate during this period.

On Thursday (19 March) it was also announced people receiving benefits do not have to attend jobcentre appointments for at least 3 months. People will continue to receive their benefits as normal, but all requirements to attend the jobcentre appointments in person are suspended.

People can still make applications for benefits online if they are eligible. Jobcentres remain open, and will continue to support people who are not able to use phones and online, including homeless people.

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